Space City’s Case for Amazon’s $5 Billion Headquarters

07 Nov, 2017

This article was originally published as a memo to Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon Inc. from Ralph Bivins, Founding Editor of Realty News Report.

Houston is known as a cradle of innovation and entrepreneurial genius by many. Houston has been home to many of the great American innovators: computer magnate Michael Dell, fracking pioneer George P. Mitchell and you, Jeff Bezos, Amazon Inc. founder and former student in the Houston Independent School District.

Houston is where President John F. Kennedy, at Rice University in 1962, challenged the nation to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The state did it with NASA’s Mission Control in southeast Houston leading the way. They still call Houston “Space City” and it still has the kind of can-do spirit that would make Amazon feel at home.

With the deadline for proposals less than a month away, perhaps you’d consider putting Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters in Houston. With 50,000 new jobs and 8 million square feet of office space, Houstonians would love to have it here.

Honestly, there is no other city equipped to meet your requirements the way Houston can. May I respond to your request for proposals thusly:

Amazon Requirement:  500,000 square feet of office space available in 2019. Houston has an oversupply of office space right now. A lot of it is brand new, affordable and built to the highest LEED green standards. So Houston can deliver your 500,000 square feet in 2019 and then design and build the 8 million square feet you need in just a few years.

Amazon Requirement: Within 45 minutes of international airport. Houston has two (2) major international airports. Hobby Airport has been upgraded significantly.

Amazon Requirement: More than 1 million in population/sufficient workforce. The Greater Houston area has a population of more than 6 million people and has been one of the fastest growing cities in the nation in the last decade.

Amazon Requirement: Diverse population. Houston has the most diverse population in the nation, even more diverse than New York City, according to Dr. Robert Stein of Rice University. Pupils entering kindergarten at HISD speak more than 100 different languages.

Amazon Requirement: Access to Mass Transit. Houston has a workable bus system and METRO light rail, which goes through downtown. Although your RFP doesn’t say Amazon headquarters must be in a downtown like the current headquarters in Seattle, the document gives the impression that an urban site is preferred.

Houston has a lot of great locations, but to start the conversation, please consider these three sites:

800 Bell: This 1 million square-foot downtown tower, once the headquarters of Humble Oil, is now vacant. The 44-story building, owned by Shorenstein Properties, could be renovated and delivered by Amazon’s 2019 deadline. It is one block from METRO light rail. Over a dozen new mid-rise and high-rise residential buildings are under development in downtown. Plus, 800 Bell is surrounded by a number of surface parking lots that could be sites for new Amazon towers. Downtown has the walkable environment and entertainment facilities that appeal to Millennial workforce more than suburban campuses.

East River: Midway, a Houston developer that created the City Centre mixed-use project, owns 147 acres just east of downtown. The site, which has one mile of frontage on Buffalo Bayou, was the campus of KBR (formerly known as Brown & Root). A year ago, when Midway unveiled preliminary concepts for the site, Midway CEO Jonathan Brinsden said East River was being planned to accommodate 8 million feet of new development – which coincidentally happens to be exactly as much space as Amazon needs.

Astrodome: The empty, county-owned stadium has innovation in its bones. It was the world’s first air-conditioned domed stadium. When grass wouldn’t grow, Astroturf was invented. The Astrodome has METRO rail service connected to downtown and Midtown. It’s surrounded by 300 acres of parking that could be sites for additional development. The Astrodome has 500,000 square feet of floor space ready to be reconfigured as innovative office space. Plus, the Dome is on Kirby Drive, where your old school, River Oaks Elementary, is located, just five miles up the road.

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